Phil Hughes played a thrilling innings as he and fellow opener Simon Katich hit centuries for Australia on the first day of the second Test against South Africa at Kingsmead on Friday.
Australia were in a strong position at 303 for four at the close, although South Africa fought back after a pummeling during the first three hours of play.
Hughes (115) and Katich (108) put on 184 for the first wicket, scoring at better than four runs an over, in a partnership dominated by Hughes, who thrashed 19 fours and two sixes in a 151-ball innings. Fellow left-hander Katich was more sedate in making his runs off 190 deliveries with 16 fours
Hughes, 20, reached his century with two successive sixes off left-arm spinner Paul Harris to become Australia’s youngest Test century maker since Doug Walters, who was eight days short of his 20th birthday when he made 155 against England in Brisbane in 1965-1966.
Hughes, playing in only his second Test, noticed after he hit his first six that South Africa brought their fielders up to stop him getting a single.
“He [Harris] brought the man off the fence, threw the ball up there and I thought I’d go again. It just happened. It went my way,” Hughes said.
Katich said he wasn’t surprised by the way Hughes played, nor by the way he reached his century.
“I must admit, I had the burners on ready to go for a quick single, but when he launched it I thought: ‘What am I worrying about, the young bloke’s going to hit it out of the ground,’” Katich said. “It was a great innings. I said last year he was going to be a very special player. He has already proved that. He’s going to have a long career ahead of him. The way he was playing, I was happy just to keep the partnership going.”
South Africa claimed to have made plans to counter Hughes after his second innings 75 in the first Test last weekend — he made a duck in the first innings — but the little left-hander unleashed a dazzling array of strokes against some wayward bowling.
South Africa, seeking to draw level in the three-match series, started the match badly. They bowled poorly on a good batting pitch, dropped two catches and used up both their referrals to the television umpire. The hosts made a comeback later in the day before Mike Hussey, who successfully challenged a leg before wicket decision against him, and Marcus North put on an unbeaten 37 before the close, surviving the second new ball late in the day.
Katich was dropped on 55 by Hashim Amla at midwicket off Dale Steyn, while Hughes was put down by a diving Jacques Kallis at slip off Morne Morkel when he had 114. He added only one more before slashing Kallis to gully, where Neil McKenzie held a sharp chance.
“I thought we came back well after lunch,” South Africa coach Mickey Arthur said. “Our target was to have them 300 for six at the close. We didn’t quite achieve that so Australia hold the aces, but we’re still pretty confident.”